Month: January 2024

Sleepy Girl Mocktail recipe + tart cherry substitutions

I had 4 people ask me about the Sleepy Girl Mocktail within 5 days so I thought I should offer my two cents as a registered dietitian. This recipe has been making its rounds on social media, thanks to wellness influencer Gracie Norton and her popular TikTok video. It even had Good Morning America talking about it’s sleep-inducing properties! But what makes this viral drink potentially the perfect beverage to have before you go to bed? Lets break down how the beverage can improve sleep quality and add some zhuzh to your bedtime routine.  

Interested in a lower calorie version? Jump to the bottom for my version that is about half the calories of the original.

Jump to Recipe

What you need to make the Sleepy Girl Mocktail

The main ingredients are : 

  • pure tart cherry juice
  • magnesium powder
  • prebiotic soda – Olipop soda is a popular brand

Add a few ice cubes if you want it on the rocks.  

Jump to Recipe

Why does the combo work?

Tart cherries are a source of melatonin, a hormone that helps regulate the sleep-wake cycle and promote deeper, more restful sleep. 

Magnesium plays a crucial role in the nervous system and has calming properties, making it a key ingredient for a good night’s sleep.  It helps regulate certain hormones including the stress hormone cortisol which has a positive impact for better sleep.  

While it’s not a magic potion, it does contain ingredients that have been shown to support a peaceful night’s sleep.  I think it’s clever because it’s one way to replace your evening alcoholic beverage without depriving yourself.

Melanie Marcus MA RD

Prebiotic soda provides a bubbly texture with a touch of prebiotics. It also promotes gut health and can offer relief from digestive discomforts.  

I think it’s clever because it’s one way to replace your evening alcoholic beverage without depriving yourself.  It feels a little more elevated than water and without the effects of alcohol.

Ingredients substitutions

Tart cherry juice: 

Well known for it’s melatonin content, tart cherry juice isn’t the only fruit that supports melatonin levels. Pineapple, banana, and grapes have also been observed to increase blood melatonin levels.  You can cut your tart cherry juice or replace it all together with pineapple or grape juice.  


If you’re worried about taking ta magnesium supplement, add a teaspoon or two of chia seeds.  Just 1 ounce has 95mg magnesium.  If you generally don’t tolerate magnesium well, you can try magnesium glycinate.  It is generally better tolerated and doesn’t result in upset stomach like other forms of magnesium.

Prebiotic soda: 

You can replace prebiotic soda with regular soda water. Don’t skimp on this because it needs a little fizz. If tonic water crosses your mind, remember, it will add calories, just like regular soda will. Could taste good though!

Does the type of magnesium matter?

Magnesium is available in several forms, each with different effects on the body. One of the most common forms, magnesium citrate, is  often used to treat constipation, and could lead digestive issues like diarrhea.  This happens when unabsorbed magnesium salts stimulate bowel movements by drawing water into the intestines and colon. If you want to avoid this, magnesium glycinate might be a better option since it’s more easily absorbed and as a result less likely to cause these troubles.

The average scoop of magnesium powder has about 200mg per scoop.  

That said, don’t forget that magnesium is widely available in natural food sources like nuts, beans, rice, seeds, and leafy greens. For example, chia seeds are a fantastic magnesium source, providing 111mg an impressive 26% of your daily value in just one ounce. Meanwhile, almonds and spinach are also rich in magnesium, offering nearly 20% of your daily recommended intake each. Incorporating these foods into your diet can help you reap the benefits of magnesium and avoid unwanted digestive complications that may come with certain magnesium supplements.

This drink may not be for you if:

Blood sugar is a concern

I want to start by saying that 100% juice does count as a serving of fruit.  Just 6 ounces once daily counts as a serving (not more!). That said, juice is a simple form of natural sugar and can result in increases in blood sugar if consumed without fat, fiber and protein.   

You are calorie conscious

If you are tracking macros or following a lower calorie diet, for example, consuming liquid calories and fruit juices in general may leave you with fewer calories to eat throughout the day.  One cup of tart cherry juice has 159 calories, 37g carbohydrate with 33g sugar, 1g protein, 1 g fat.  While it is packed with nutrients, liquid calories don’t register the same way in your stomach.  Plus that’s more calories than your average glass of wine or low calorie beer.  

Signs of too much magnesium

​Healthy people don’t have to worry about getting too much magnesium because excess is filtered and excreted by the kidneys.  Consult with your physician before adding this mocktail to your routine.  

That said, the the USDA established 350mg/day as a tolerable upper limit for magnesium for adults 19 years or older.  Taking more may result in abdominal cramping and diarrhea.  

Do I recommend the Sleepy Girl Mocktail?

While it’s not a magic potion, it does contain ingredients that have been shown to support a peaceful night’s sleep.  I think it’s clever because it’s one way to replace your evening alcoholic beverage without depriving yourself.  It feels a little more elevated than water and without the effects of alcohol.  If you’re already taking a magnesium supplement, this may be a combo to try.  Otherwise be sure to speak with you healthcare provider before adding a supplement to your routine.  

What other questions do you have about the sleepy girl mocktail trend? 

On a mocktail kick?

Check out this winter sangria recipe for a refreshing option. Or if you’re just into trending beverages, you won’t want to miss this blue cloud smoothie recipe. Check them out to be in the know!

Lightened up Sleepy Girl Mocktail

Course Drinks
Servings 1
Calories 80 kcal


  • 2 ounces Tart Cherry Juice
  • 2 ounces Pineapple Juice
  • 2 ounces club soda
  • 1 tsp chia seed
  • 1 scoop magnesium powder optional


  • Combine all ingredients in glass and mix well.
  • Serve over ice if desired.


Serving: 6ouncesCalories: 80kcalCarbohydrates: 17gProtein: 1gFat: 1gSaturated Fat: 0.1gPolyunsaturated Fat: 1gMonounsaturated Fat: 0.1gTrans Fat: 0.01gSodium: 18mgPotassium: 188mgFiber: 1gSugar: 11gVitamin A: 5IUVitamin C: 6mgCalcium: 40mgIron: 1mg
Tried this recipe?Let us know how it was!

About Me

I’m Melanie.

I’m a chef, registered dietitian, foodie, wife and mom.
If you’re looking for quick and healthy meal inspiration that supports your health goals while feeding the rest of your family (including the kiddoes) well, then you’ve come to the right place!

Melanie Marcus Selfie

The best healthy Greek yogurt in the supermarket

As a registered dietitian, I am often asked about the best options in the dairy aisle, and when it comes to Greek yogurt, I have a clear favorite: Fage.  Since the first time I tried Fage yogurt, it has been my number one choice. Whether it’s Fage Total, 2%, or fat free – Fage is a true Greek yogurt that you can easily find at any grocery store.

And as much as I love Fage, this is not an ad, and I have not been compensated in any way for this blog.

What makes Greek yogurt such a great choice? 

berry cream dessert

Greek yogurt is a protein-rich dairy product that contains essential nutrients like calcium, vitamin D, complete protein and fatty acids. It also has live active cultures, which can help improve gut health. And for those watching their blood sugar levels, Greek yogurt is often lower in carbs and higher in protein than traditional yogurt, making it a good option for those with lactose intolerance or trying to manage their diabetes.

Fage Total is my go-to brand when I’m in the yogurt aisle. For starters, it has a thick texture that is creamy and satisfying without being overly tart. And unlike some other brands, Fage Total does not contain any added sugar or artificial sweeteners.

What are live active cultures?

Live active cultures are good bacteria that are often found in fermented foods like yogurt, kefir, and sauerkraut. These tiny microorganisms help to break down sugars and carbohydrates in our food, which allows our bodies to absorb more nutrients and digest our food more easily. Plus, these good bacteria work to keep our gut healthy by crowding out the bad bacteria and strengthening our immune system.

You may know these live active cultures as probiotics. Probiotics can help improve digestion, boost your immune system, and even enhance your mood! Make sure to look for Greek yogurt that contains live and active cultures to reap the benefits.

What about the protein content? 

Well, Fage Total packs a whopping 18 grams of protein per serving, while the fat content varies depending on the type of yogurt you choose (full-fat, low-fat, or non-fat). While Fage does offer flavored yogurts, their unflavored varietites have little sugar, coming in at around 7 grams per serving. This is natural milk sugar called lactose.  It’s not added sugar.

strawberry shake

In fact, most Greek yogurt is an excellent source of protein, containing about 17 to 20 grams per serving (This is double your standard yogurt). This makes it a great option for those who are looking to build or maintain muscle mass, as well as for vegetarians who may struggle to get enough protein in their diets.

Cups yogurt parfaits fresh kiwi

The protein in plain Greek yogurt provides all of the amino acids you need to build lean body tissue, AKA muscle.  So if you’ve been strength training or want to tone up, choosing a lean and complete protein like a fat free or 1% fat greek yogurt is a great option.  I regularly include Greek yogurt as part of my meal planning.  Usually it pops in as a snack or treat at the end of the day because if it’s thicker texture.  I love having plain Greek yogurt with mixed fresh or frozen berries, drizzled with a bit of honey and toasted walnuts.  It’s phenomenal

Other nutrients in Greek yogurt

Next up, is calcium. Greek yogurt is rich in this mineral, which is crucial for strong bones and teeth. In fact, just one cup of Greek yogurt contains about 25% of your daily recommended intake of calcium!

Last but not least, Greek yogurt is also a good source of vitamins B12 and B6, which are important for maintaining healthy brain function and producing red blood cells.

​It has simple ingredients

But what I really love about Fage is the ingredient list. They use only simple, whole food ingredients like milk and live active cultures. And for those concerned about sourcing, Fage is made with milk from grass-fed cows and is free from milk protein concentrate. Plus, they offer a plain variety that allows for personal preference and added versatility in recipes.  With such a simple ingredients list, Greek yoghurt is considered a natural whole food and fits within the Faster Way meal plan.  

What does Greek yogurt taste like?

Bowl fruit and yogurt topped

Greek yogurt is thicker and creamier than regular yogurt, with a tangy taste that’s slightly sour and refreshing. It has a distinct flavor that’s hard to describe, but it’s often described as being slightly tart and tangy, with a creamy texture that’s satisfying and filling. It’s similar to sour cream in many ways.  The reason for its unique taste is due to the straining process, which removes much of the liquid whey from the yogurt, leaving behind a concentrated form of protein and flavor. 

How to use traditional Greek yogurt

But don’t just take my word for it! Next time you’re at your local supermarket, give Fage a try and see if it’s your new favorite Greek yogurt too. With options including non-fat, low-fat, and full-fat Greek yogurts, Fage has something for everyone and is a great choice for a healthy snack or addition to breakfast or dessert. Cheers to good gut health and delicious yogurt!

Are there alternatives to Greek yogurt?

If you’re at home and you need Greek yogurt, you can make it by straining a high quality plain yogurt such as Stonyfield Organic through cheese cloth or a mesh strainer for a few hours to remove excess liquid.  If you want another pre-made option, Icelandic yogurt or Icelandic skyr would be suitable, though possibly not as easy to find.  

Greek yogurt for weight loss.

  1. Greek yogurt is packed with protein which is essential for keeping you feeling full and satisfied. A 6-ounce serving of Greek yogurt typically contains around 15 to 20 grams of protein, whereas regular yogurt only contains around 9 grams. This means you’ll be less likely to snack on unhealthy foods throughout the day as your hunger pangs will be kept at bay.
  2. It’s lower in carbohydrates and sugar than other yogurt or dairy products. This is because the whey and lactose are strained from the yogurt during the production process, leaving it with a thicker, creamier texture and less sugar.
  3. Greek yogurt is also lower in calories than other dairy products such as cream cheese or sour cream. One ounce of cream cheese contains around 100 calories, whereas one ounce of Greek yogurt contains only around 20 calories.

When choosing a Fage for weight loss, I consider whether I’m focused on lower carbohydrates or regular macros. Total or 2% fat are appropriate for low carb days while fat free is the go-to for low macro or regular macro days. If you’re wondering more about macros, follow me on Instagram @miss_nutritious_eats and read more here!

These Yogurt Marinated Chicken Skewers come together quickly and are the perfect recipe to use up any plain Greek yogurt that you have in the house!

About Me

I’m Melanie.

I’m a chef, registered dietitian, foodie, wife and mom.
If you’re looking for quick and healthy meal inspiration that supports your health goals while feeding the rest of your family (including the kiddoes) well, then you’ve come to the right place!

Melanie Marcus Selfie

The 3 types of kitchen towels you need in 2024

One of the most underrated tools for the home cook is the humble kitchen towel. Here are three kitchen towels that you absolutely need. No matter what type of cook you are, from newbie to professional, these towels will make your time in the kitchen so much easier and more enjoyable. 

kitchen cupboard and counter with various dishware

First and foremost, every kitchen needs a large drying towel. This towel should be designated specifically for drying clean dishes, and kept separate from any other towels to prevent cross contamination. I recommend a large size flour sack or cotton towel that has a high absorbency rate. Either a thinner towel or flat weave towels will offer a high absorbency rate and dry quickly.  Choose which feels best to you. This towel will be your best friend for quickly and easily drying dishes after they’ve been washed in the sink or the dishwasher. It’s ok to use this towel to dry hands.  Not only does a dedicated drying towel make clean up a breeze, it also helps prevent water spots on glassware and leaves dishes sparkling clean.  Look for a towel that has a hanging loop so that you can easily hang it up on a hook or cabinet handle for quick access.  I personally like the Williams Sonoma striped towel. 

Next, a smaller general kitchen towel is a must-have.  Terry cloth towels or cotton towels are ideal as they stand up to kitchen tasks and the washing machine well.  These will be your all around utility towel.  It’s perfect for cleaning up spills, wiping down countertops or appliances, holding onto hot pots and pans, and even using as an oven mitt in a pinch. I suggest opting for a cotton towel that’s versatile and can withstand a variety of uses and washing. 

Finally, no kitchen is complete without a small microfiber towel for wiping appliances. These towels are perfect for quickly wiping down your stovetop, fridge, or other appliances without leaving any streaks or residue. Microfiber towels are made of synthetic materials and are known for their ability to attract and trap dirt and grime. They are also incredibly durable and can be machine washed and used repeatedly. 

crop person in cleaning glove in bathroom

The three towels you need:

  1. Standard dish towels – Use to dry clean hands and dishes only.  Because they touch only clean hands and dishes they can be used a couple of times before washing.  Hang on hook near the sink to dry delicate dishes.  These are more decorative and may change with different seasons.  
  2. Utility or bar towels – These are your kitchen workhorse.  These are your basic lightweight cotton towel that you may fold over before grabbing a hot pan.  In addition to doubling as an oven mitt, it’s your best option to hold hot handles, wipe knives and cutting boards. You may use several of them during a cooking session.  They should be washed soon afterwards.  I often keep these tucked into my apron during a cooking sesh.  
  3. Microfiber cloth towels – Remember these are soft fabric, often bright colors and great for wiping appliances.  I have a stack folded under my sink to use for cleaning spills and wiping counters.  

**All kitchen towles should be machine washable.  

When it comes to picking out the best kitchen towels, there are a few things to keep in mind. Look for towels that are made from high quality, durable materials – like organic cotton or Turkish cotton – that can withstand daily use and frequent washing. Also, consider the size and surface area of the towels, as larger towels are great for drying and smaller ones are more versatile for different uses. And of course, don’t forget to choose towels in vibrant colors or with fun patterns to add a pop of personality to your kitchen decor.

A good set of dish towels includes a large drying towel for clean dishes, a smaller general kitchen towel for spills and other uses, and a small microfiber towel for wiping appliances. With these three versatile towels in your kitchen, you’ll be able to tackle any task with ease. Happy cooking!

About Me

I’m Melanie.

I’m a chef, registered dietitian, foodie, wife and mom.
If you’re looking for quick and healthy meal inspiration that supports your health goals while feeding the rest of your family (including the kiddoes) well, then you’ve come to the right place!

Melanie Marcus Selfie

When to hire a registered dietitian and how much it costs

Are you overwhelmed by the wealth of information available on social media around nutrition, health and various fad diets? It may be time to consider hiring a registered dietitian nutritionist (RDN) who can guide you through the process of creating a healthy lifestyle – that works for you. The Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics confirms that RDNs have earned at least a bachelor’s degree in nutrition and dietetics, followed by completing an accredited internship and passing a national examination. And the truth is, many dietitian’s don’t stop there with their education.  They continue on to get their Masters in Nutrition or complimentary subjects such as communications, psychology and business among others.  

I chose to focus on culinary arts and nutrition because I believe the best way to eat healthy, is to make your food taste good. After all, flavor drives our eating decisions most of the time!

You can read more about me here.  

When is the right time to turn to an RDN

Trying to lose weight or managing health with healthy food choices is a universal struggle that we’ve all experienced at some point. You may have heard that weight loss simply comes down to burning more calories than we consume, but it’s not that simple. Our bodies are complicated machines with individual reactions to food.

photo of a burn fat text on round blue plate

It’s time to consider working with a dietitian if:

  • Postpartum has taken a toll and you want to fee like yourself again
  • Emotional eating has become significant hurdle to overcome. 
  • Genetics and hormones have made it challenging to lose weight.
  • “Quick fix” products and crash diets have not delivered on their claims.
  • You’ve gained and lost the same 20 pounds for years.  
  • You put in the time at the gym but you don’t see any changes.  
  • You’re not sure where to start with a nutrition program that will be effective.  
  • You are at a healthy weight, but you want to feel more toned and build muscle.
  • You want feel energetic as you go through the day!
  • You’ve tried diet plans, cleanses, meal prepping and pills but nothing seems to meet your personal needs.
  • You need a plan that will get you results for the long term!

The key to successful weight loss is patience, consistency, and giving yourself grace. With dedication and willingness to put in the work and make realistic lifestyle changes, anyone can achieve their health goals. TRUST ME.

preparing lemonade with lemon and sprig of rosemary

If you have food allergies, dietary needs, or a specific medical conditions such as heart disease or high cholesterol, it’s always a good idea to seek advice from an RDN. They can advise and develop a nutrition plan tailored to your needs, including creating personalized meal plans, guidance for grocery shopping, and providing nutritional counseling that focuses on habit building to support your health issues.

How do you find the right person for your needs?

If you are not sure where to start looking for an RDN, social media, the academy website, and referrals from your primary doctor can be great options to explore. When you hire an RDN, you can be sure that they have clinical experience and are a credentialed nutrition professional as a result of their training. Dietitian’s are the nutrition experts.  

You may be surprised to know that dietitians work in a variety of industries that include:  

  • Clinical work in the hospital with adults and children that have a variety of disease states
  • Long-term care facilities working with elderly and rehab patients
  • Supporting athletes in sports nutrition
  • Working with shoppers to choose healthy products at the grocery store
  • Writing for your favorite health and food publications
  • Recipe development for food companies
  • Private practice within a variety of spaces including weight management
  • Virtual dietitians can offer a variety of services including group programs
  • And many more…
scrabble pieces on a plate

In addition to their training and experience, RDN’s also stay up-to-date on the latest research and guidelines in nutrition. This means that they can provide accurate and evidence-based advice to help you reach your health goals. They can also work with you to develop personalized meal plans based on your specific dietary needs and preferences.

What to expect when working with me

I work with women who are motivated to build habits to achieve a healthy weight as well as a positive mindset around food.  

After enrolling in the initial six week orientation program, also referred to as a 6-week round, I will learn about your medical history, nutritional needs, and health goals with a new client intake form. Then we talk strategy to support your goals, which may include intermittent fasting, carb cycling, custom macros, workout and meal plans, recipes recommendations and hydration goals.  It’s tailored to your specific medical conditions or stage of life (including pregnancy and post partum)and may include advice on meal planning, food groups, and nutrient-rich diets to ensure a safe and healthy relationship with food. Basically we will create a nutrition plan based on your unique needs so that you can feel stronger, energized and ready to take on whatever comes at you!

When you hire an RDN (like me) you can feel confident knowing you are in the hands of a knowledgeable and experienced professional. You want to ensure you find an RDN who is a good fit for your personality and someone who can help motivate you to create and maintain a healthier lifestyle. Be sure to find someone who you can build a good relationship with, as follow-up visits are critical for long-term success.  

Instagram is a great way to get to know your future dietitian a little better, and learn about their philosophy.  Check out my instagram here!  

While scrolling, beware of fad diets and quick fix solutions. Working with a dietitian will help you steer clear of them and teach you the best way to lead a healthier lifestyle – for good!

How much does it cost to work with a dietitian?

The cost of working with a registered dietitian can vary depending on a number of factors such as location, expertise, and number of sessions.

person counting cash money

On average, the hourly rate for a registered dietitian in the United States is around $100-$200 and generally there is an initial longer consultation with a series of follow ups.  That said, many insurance plans cover the cost of consultations with a registered dietitian, so it’s important to check with your provider to see if these services are covered. In addition, some companies offer their employees access to registered dietitians as part of their wellness programs, so it’s worth checking with your employer to see if this is an option.

I work with clients virtually, the cost of the initial 6-week program is $249, and $99 a month thereafter if they choose to keep working with me.  There’s no doubt about it.  The cost is an investment in your health – and you are well worth it.  As my mom always says, if you have your health – you have everything you need.  

I hope to chat with you soon!

About Me

I’m Melanie.

I’m a chef, registered dietitian, foodie, wife and mom.
If you’re looking for quick and healthy meal inspiration that supports your health goals while feeding the rest of your family (including the kiddoes) well, then you’ve come to the right place!

Melanie Marcus Selfie

Does the Faster Way to Fat Loss plan actually work?

Hey there, friends! I’m Melanie, a registered dietitian and Faster Way coach, and I am thrilled to share about the amazing Faster Way to Fat Loss program. If you’re looking for a fat loss program that incorporates the latest research in nutrition and fitness AND can fit into your every day life, you’re in the right place!


The Faster Way to Fat Loss program is an online program that includes key components like intermittent fasting, carb cycling, low-carb days, whole food nutrition, and daily 30 minute workouts. Developed by Amanda Tress, a personal trainer, and nutrition coach, the program has helped tens of thousands of people achieve great results in terms of weight loss, energy levels, and overall wellness. ***The Faster Way isn’t a fitness program that promises you’ll lose 10 pounds in 2 weeks.  It’s a nutrition program that incorporates fitness to help you build healthful habits for your individual needs.  It helps you navigate those real life struggles of nutrition and wellness in an effective way.  And with my help (your personal coach), you’re sure to be successful no matter your goal.  All you need to do is trust the process.  

The first week

The first week of the program is dedicated to prep, which includes setting macro goals, learning about the different types of whole foods to consume, explore meal plans and recipes while adjusting to your fasting window.  

Once you’re familiar with the program, you’ll jump right into the hiit and weight training workouts during week two. While they are not required, my clients that do participate in workouts see results faster – plus they feel better in other aspects of life too. (Think better mood, regular periods, better sleep).  Rest days are also key to the program, allowing your body to recover and prepare sets the foundation for lean muscle growth. On top of that, the Faster Way App provides beginner workouts as well as advanced workouts you can do from the comfort of your own home, at your own level.  

Join my next round of the FASTer Way

Tired of endless diets and no results? Join the FASTer Way to Fat Loss and see real, sustainable changes in just 6 weeks!

Melanie Marcus FASTer Way to Fat Loss Coach

You will have all of the tools you need for success

  • Daily workouts
  • Intermittent fasting timer
  • Hydration tracker
  • Weekly meal plans and recipes (totally optional – but highly recommend!)
  • Challenge incentives with fun gifts
  • Supplements such as protein and collagen that help you hit your macros
  • Personal coach to answer questions and help you tweak the program for your needs

What I like the most as a dietitian

One of the biggest takeaways from the program is how it helps you with proper eating habits. The intermittent fasting eating window can be challenging at first, but you’ll quickly learn the right foods to eat during this time. And you’ll be amazed at how much food you should actually eat! The program also uses carb cycling, which means some days will be low carb days and others will be regular days. And remember, while research suggests that intermittent fasting eating schedule may work well for many people, it must be tweaked for certain people due to medications, pregnancy or other conditions.  Another reason why having a personal coach is so important.  

Read more about the 28 Reasons Why I Love the Faster Way.

Net carbs are emphasized throughout the program, ensuring you’re eating the right foods at the right time, especially on low carb days. This program isn’t like others where you’ll be depriving yourself of the foods you love the most. Rather, it is about making lifestyle changes consistently for six weeks that will benefit you in the long term.  And this 6-week program is the jumpstart to a lifetime of healthy habits! 

The Faster Way to Fat Loss program is more than just a workout plan. It’s a nutrition and exercise program that helps you change your lifestyle, both in and out of the gym. The monthly fee is an investment in your health.  And it will most likely be less expensive than a gym membership or personal trainer.

I’m now at the three year mark with the Faster Way.  I started just after my son was born and it changed my life! I would suggest it to anyone looking for a new year’s resolution to kick off healthier options in their lives. If you’re serious about your health and fitness goals, this is an excellent program to explore!

My honest review of the Faster Way to Fat Loss program: Hard work is key to carrying out any weight loss program, and in the beginning, it may seem overwhelming. But don’t be discouraged, there is an entire community doing the program with you every single day, whether it’s in your app, on FB, or your personal coach, you’re not alone. With the program’s online component, you’ll feel well-supported throughout your journey. Another great feature that I want to highlight is that members have access to the VIP program, where Amanda and her team offer extra coaching and accountability. And now, everything is centralized in the app.  It’s where you track your macros, enter your favorite foods, find your workouts, save your progress photos, track your hydration and fasting status.  It’s your one stop shop for educational and inspirational videos too.  

Through the FWTFL program, I was able to make a lot of changes that stick with me even today.  I’ve lost the baby weight, and have even started to enjoy strength training days.  I’ve never liked working out, but the at-home workouts are so quick and effective, I actually look forward to doing them.  It’s my “me” time.

If you’re considering making a lifestyle change and need additional support, I’d encourage you to check out the Faster Way program. With the right balance of intermittent fasting, carb cycling, low-carb days, whole food nutrition, gym workouts, and different workouts, it’s the perfect solution to achieving your fitness goals! Make the investment to create the best version of yourself!

My next round of the faster way STARTS HERE!!

Check out a sample FASTer Way meal plan.  

About Me

I’m Melanie.

I’m a chef, registered dietitian, foodie, wife and mom.
If you’re looking for quick and healthy meal inspiration that supports your health goals while feeding the rest of your family (including the kiddoes) well, then you’ve come to the right place!

Melanie Marcus Selfie

Alcohol Free Kombucha Sangria

I don’t know about you, but more I’m noticing that more and more people are going alcohol free. Just over Thanksgiving, I loaded up on Corona and my MIL’s favorite red wine to find out they were going without this year. That’s where this non-alcoholic sangria recipe comes in. It’s a sangria mocktail that has the tang of wine and sweetness from fruit. It’s elevated enough to serve in a fancy glass and will rival other traditional sangrias made with wine.

My secret is a fermented tea called kombucha. 

What is kombucha?

Kombucha is a fermented tea (often made from green tea or black tea) that has gained popularity in recent years due to its potential health benefits. It is made by combining tea, sugar, and a symbiotic culture of bacteria and yeast (SCOBY) and allowing the mixture to ferment for several days to several weeks. During the fermentation process, the bacteria and yeast consume the sugar, resulting in a slightly sour and effervescent beverage.

Kombucha has been praised for its potential health benefits, which include improving digestion, boosting the immune system, and reducing inflammation. It also contains antioxidants and may have antimicrobial properties.

However, it is important to note that the scientific evidence supporting these claims is limited and more research is needed to fully understand the potential health benefits of kombucha. Additionally, the fermentation process may lead to the production of alcohol and may be unsafe for certain individuals, such as pregnant women and people with compromised immune systems.

Does kombucha have alcohol?

Some people may not want to consume alcohol, especially if they are pregnant, have a history of alcohol abuse, or are underage. Fortunately, there are many alcohol-free kombuchas available in the market that can provide the same probiotic and digestive benefits without the buzz.

For instance, GT’s Living Foods offers a variety of alcohol-free kombuchas such as their Classic, Hibiscus Ginger Lime, and Watermelon Wonder flavors. Kevita, another well-known brand, also has a range of organic kombuchas, including their Blueberry Basil and Lemon Cayenne flavors, that contain trace amounts of alcohol (0.5% or less alcohol by volume). Additionally, some companies like Health-Ade and Humm Kombucha have completely alcohol-free options like Health-Ade’s Cayenne Cleanse and Humm’s Raspberry Hops flavor.

It’s important to note that not all kombucha brands are alcohol-free, and some may contain up to 2-3% alcohol by volume. So it’s essential to read the label carefully and choose the right product according to personal preferences and health needs. With the rise of alcohol-free kombuchas, both kombucha lovers and non-drinkers can enjoy this gut-friendly beverage without any concerns.

​Where can you buy kombucha?

​I used to be able to find bottles of kombucha – only- at the local health food stores, but now they can be found in nearly every grocery store and gas station!  

Ingredients for this kombucha mocktail recipe

  • alcohol free kombucha – a plain kombucha or a flavored one would work well. Be sure to choose one with as little added sugar as possible.  
  • sparkling apple juice – this takes the place of white wine while adding sweetness.  Fruit juice such as apple, pear or white grape juice, cut with seltzer water are good alternatives too.  Cranberry juice could be used, but I chose to go with a clear option to play up with winter/white theme.  As a last resort you can use ginger ale for that bubbly sweet combo.  
  • citrus fruits – use a combination of oranges, grapefruit and limes for color.  Blood oranges would be super cool.  
  • other fruit – pineapple, pear and pomegranate seeds are a great option for a festive healthy cocktail. 
  • garnish with a rosemary sprig and extra cranberries if you have them!  

How to make this winter kombucha sangria recipe

I love that this recipe is bubbly, not too sweet and has a colorful bit of fruit with every sip. Basically add equal parts of your favorite kombucha and sparkling apple cider to a large pitcher. Add in 2 cups of small diced fruit. The key is to ensure that none of the fruit is too big to overwhelm the glass or make a splash when pouring. Alternatively you can ladle sangria into wine glasses and garnish the top of each glass with rosemary sprigs. I particularly love rosemary because it’s festive for the winter season, and pairs beautifully with citrus. It also contrasts the sweeter flavor from the fruit. I love this healthy and alcohol free take on the traditional Spanish drink.

How alcohol effects weight loss efforts

Alcohol is frequently enjoyed all over the world to both celebrate and relax after a long day. However, it has a significant negative impact on weight loss. Alcohol contains a high amount of calories, and it inhibits the body from carrying out its fat-burning functions efficiently.

It is broken down in the liver, where it is converted into acetate, which provides energy to the body. However, the liver gives priority to processing alcohol over burning fat. As a result, when alcohol is consumed, the body’s ability to burn fat decreases by 73%.

And if we’re being honest with ourselves, alcohol consumption has a psychological impact that makes it hard to stick to a healthy diet and lifestyle routine. Alcoholic drinks are often consumed with high-calorie foods, leading to overeating and impeding progress towards weight loss goals.

Alcohol is also known to disrupt sleep patterns, which can result in hormonal imbalances that affect metabolism and digestive processes. Poor sleep quality leads to decreased levels of leptin and increased levels of ghrelin, disrupting the body’s natural hunger response, leading to overeating, and in turn, weight gain. So while it could be enjoyed daily, it’s a significant roadblock for those who are trying to lose weight. It not only adds hundreds of extra calories to their diet but also inhibits their body’s ability to burn fat, increases hunger, and decreases the quality of sleep.

If you are aiming to lose weight but still want to include alcohol in your routine, I recommend reducing your alcohol consumption. For instance, if you typically have a glass or two of wine every night, consider limiting it to just one or two glass one night per week instead. This mindful adjustment can help you reach your weight loss goals while still allowing you to enjoy occasional indulgences.

Alcohol Free Winter Sangria

Tangy wine-like sangria
Prep Time 10 minutes
Total Time 10 minutes
Course Drinks
Servings 4
Calories 113 kcal


  • 1/2 each orange cut into wedges
  • 1/2 each grapefruit cut into wedges
  • 3/4 cup diced pineapple
  • 1 each pear cubed
  • 20 ounces sparkling cider
  • 20 ounces pineapple kombucha
  • 3 each rosemary spring optional garnish


  • Add cut fruit to pitcher
  • Top with sparkling cider and kombucha
  • Garnish with rosemary springs and enjoy!


Calories: 113kcalCarbohydrates: 30gProtein: 1gFat: 1gSaturated Fat: 0.1gPolyunsaturated Fat: 0.1gMonounsaturated Fat: 0.03gSodium: 8mgPotassium: 329mgFiber: 1gSugar: 20gVitamin A: 52IUVitamin C: 71mgCalcium: 26mgIron: 0.4mg
Keyword alcohol free
Tried this recipe?Let us know how it was!

Is it safe to cook frozen ground beef in slow cooker?

Imagine it’s a cold winter day in January and school has closed last minute due to an impending storm. It seems like the perfect day to take a few pounds of meat out of the freezer to make a slow cooker ground beef recipe.  Right? – WRONG!

Can you cook frozen ground beef in the crockpot?  

Today, I’m answering one of the most asked questions about cooking ground meat in the slow cooker – can you put frozen ground beef in the crock pot? Well, the short answer is NO. And let me tell you why you should not cook frozen meat in your slow cooker.

First off, it’s important to understand the concept of the temperature “danger zone.” This is the temperature range between 41-135 degrees Fahrenheit (5-57 degrees Celsius), where bacteria thrive and multiply rapidly. When food is between 70-125 degrees Fahrenheit (21-52 degrees Celsius) bacteria grows fastest. This means that when cooking ground beef, we need to make sure it gets to a safe temperature of above 140 degrees Fahrenheit (60 degrees Celsius) within two hours.

Now, back to the question at hand – can you put frozen ground beef in the crock pot? The answer is no because frozen meat takes too long to reach a safe temperature in a slow cooker. Slow cookers typically have a temperature range of 170-280 degrees Fahrenheit, which is high enough to kill most bacteria. However, the USDA still recommends thawing all foods completely before placing them in a slow cooker.

If you’re in a hurry and need to cook ground meat quickly, an instant pot or pressure cooker is a great way to do it. These appliances cook food at high pressure, which means they can quickly bring frozen meat to a safe temperature without spending too much time in the danger zone.

If you’re determined to use your slow cooker, here’s what you need to do to cook ground meat safely.

First, make sure your meat is fully thawed before putting it in the slow cooker. You can do this by transferring it from the freezer to the refrigerator for 24 hours. 

Once your ground meat is thawed, cook it on your slow cooker’s highest temperature setting for the first hour to ensure that it reaches a safe temperature quickly. Then, you can reduce the heat to the desired level to finish cooking. I found this to be the easiest way to reduce overall cooking time while taking advantage of the slow cooker’s convenience.  

Note that ground turkey follows the same rules as ground beef. Both ground meats should never be cooked frozen in a slow cooker.

So, if you want to cook ground beef or ground turkey in your slow cooker, make sure it’s fully thawed first. Don’t risk making yourself or your family sick by cooking frozen meat in the danger zone. It’s just not worth it!

Recipes to make in the crockpot using ground beef

One of the best things about using a slow cooker for meat is that you don’t have to worry about thawing the meat first. Just throw it in frozen and let the cooking process do its thing.

For cooked beef, you could do something like a shepherd’s pie. Brown the frozen beef in a frying pan first and then add it to the crockpot with some frozen veggies (peas, carrots and corn) and mashed potatoes (which you can make using a potato masher). Cook on low for 5-6 hours, or until the potatoes are tender.

If you’re looking for a quick and easy way to make tacos, try cooking them in the slow cooker with some taco seasoning and a cup of water. Cook on high for 2-3 hours, and then check the internal temperature with a meat thermometer to make sure it’s fully cooked before serving with tortillas, cheese, tomatoes, lettuce and salsa.

For sloppy joes, add thawed raw ground beef to the crockpot with some spaghetti sauce and a little bit of hot water. Cook on low for 5-6 hours and use a wooden spoon to break up any lumps of meat.

If you prefer poultry, try this slow cooker pulled chicken recipe.

​Time saving tip for storing ground beef

You can also use freezer bags to put your meat in if you’re planning to cook it another day. For example, if you like to shop at Costco for bulk purchases such as large quantities of lean meats, divide fresh meat as soon as you get home.  I find that most ground beef recipes call for 1 or two pounds of beef.  So your best bet is to pre portion one pound of meat into zip lock bags for later use. Once meat is in the bag, remove as much air as possible to prevent freezer burn.  Then label and date and store in the fridge for 3-6 months or when you are in need of a quick meal.  It’s a huge time saver!  

When you’re cooking large batches of ground beef in the slow cooker, it’s a good idea to separate it into cooked portions and store them in sandwich bags or an airtight container in the fridge or freezer. This way, you can easily pull out the amount you need for a quick meal without having to thaw an entire batch.

Is ground beef healthy?  

Well, the answer is not a straightforward yes or no, as it depends on various factors including your personal medical history and overall goals.  

Firstly, ground beef carries a lot of calories, which can be a drawback if you’re trying to lose weight. However, it also provides high protein content, which can help keep you fuller for longer and reduce your overall calorie intake.

In addition, the quality of the ground beef plays a huge role in determining whether it’s a good option for weight loss. Lean ground beef, or 95% lean, contains fewer calories and less saturated fat than higher-fat options.

Moreover, how you prepare the ground beef also matters. If you cook it with a lot of oil or butter, you’re adding significant calories that can hinder your weight loss efforts. However, by using a non-stick pan or cooking spray and seasoning with herbs and spices, you can keep the calorie count low.

Another thing to consider is how often you consume ground beef in your diet. Having it in moderation as part of a balanced diet is fine, but if you’re relying on it too much, it can lead to overconsumption of calories and hinder your weight loss goals.

If you do want to incorporate beef into your diet, you may want to track your calorie intake and macros to ensure that you’re not consuming too many calories, regardless of the food source. So, yes, you can eat ground beef and still lose weight, as long as you choose leaner, quality meat, prepare it in a healthy way.  After-all, all foods can fit as part of a balanced diet. If you want to learn more, visit me on Instagram and check out why I love the Faster Way to Fat Loss.

About Me

I’m Melanie.

I’m a chef, registered dietitian, foodie, wife and mom.
If you’re looking for quick and healthy meal inspiration that supports your health goals while feeding the rest of your family (including the kiddoes) well, then you’ve come to the right place!

Melanie Marcus Selfie